Once Upon a Time’s Merlin Teases 'Epic Romance' Ahead

Gregory E. Miller
Caroline Ford and Elliot Knight
Jack Rowand/ABC

This Sunday on Once Upon a Time, it’s Merlin’s time to shine. Much of the episode will focus on the mighty sorcerer as he heads out on a mission with Emma (Jennifer Morrison), but we’ll also get some of his backstory that takes place far before Arthur ever entered the scene. Ahead of those reveals, we caught up with the actor who plays Merlin, Elliot Knight, to see what magic is in store.

This week's episode is going to be a big one for your character. Have you been looking forward to it all season?
I have, yeah. I’m excited for people to see more of his story and how he came to be who he is. What is the story that’s happened before they’ve found him in Camelot? You know how he ended up in the tree, but what happened before that? There are so many unanswered questions. Yes, I have been very excited for awhile for people to learn some answers to those, and this Sunday’s episode is definitely going to be a very big one for answering people’s questions.

Once Upon a Time - Merlin - Elliot Knight

Isaac Sterling Photography

Elliot Knight

In the episode, Merlin’s on a mission to reunite Excalibur and the dagger. Why?
It’s something that’s very important to Emma’s overall journey, and we don’t know why yet. But something we will learn is the critical role that that could play in what is to come. That’s pretty much what I can say about that.

Hook, Mary Margaret, Regina, Zelena, David and Robin are going to try to get Excalibur from Arthur’s castle, while Merlin and Emma are off on a different adventure. What are they up to?
Well, first of all, I really enjoyed this episode a lot for that reason. Even as a viewer of the show, it’s nice to see Merlin and Emma together. And it not just [hearing], “Oh, here is this man that we need to save Emma. What can he do?” He’s already had a couple moments with Emma where he’s let her know things or given her warnings and connected with her on some level. But I do like to see—it’s almost like the two heroes going off on a heroic quest. It’s really exciting. In terms of what they’re doing, all I can say is it’s a very personal journey. And I won’t say for who. But it’s fitting that it’s just the two of them, and it’s not with everybody else. It’s something that’s very personal.

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They’re going to try to confront an ancient nemesis though, right? Have we seen this nemesis on the show before?
Which ancient nemesis?

I don’t know. You tell me!
[Laughs] This episode is going to, like I said, answer a lot of questions. And answers normally mean new information. As to whether or not it’s someone that we’ve seen before or has already been involved with Once Upon a Time, I can’t say. But it will definitely be a revelation in one way or another. So mysterious!

We’re also going to get some flashbacks of Merlin’s life long before the age of Arthur. Will we see how he earned the powers of magic?
We’re definitely going to learn some information on Merlin [from] before how he is now. So that may well include how he became the powerful sorcerer that he is.

Is it safe to assume that will involve the romantic interest, Nimue?
I can’t say. [Laughs]

Well, in the clip that’s out for the new episode, Merlin says he knows what it is like to lose someone you love to the Dark One, and we saw him mention the same when he was turned into a tree. How will that be explored?
That is going to be a very heavy theme of the episode. I’ve always said that I like the idea that power comes from emotion, and the heart is the most powerful tool any human has. I like to think that Merlin being the most powerful sorcerer in all of the realms means that he has a very important emotional story and has had a very crucial emotional journey from that point. Like you said, he has mentioned before that he lost someone he loved to the Dark One, the only woman that he ever loved. That’s definitely going to be a theme of learning more about him because it’s so closely tied to his overall mission. The way that he is and the things that he does, for me, are all tied to this relationship that he had. So inevitably, if we’re going to find out more about him, then we’re going to find out more about that link.

How does his romance rival those epic romances we’ve seen on the show with the likes of Emma and Hook or Snow White and Charming?
[Laughs] Well, I think a part of what makes those romances as epic as they are is people’s love for the characters as individuals. People are always asking me, “Do you ship this? Do you ship that?” And I’m like, “I didn’t even know what that meant until two weeks ago.” But everyone is so invested in these characters being together and what will happen to them. The other part of that is the significance that their link has to their power and their overall struggle in the world they’re in. We know that Merlin is so important for whatever needs to happen to save Emma. We know that Merlin is the answer. So I would say—and this is just my opinion and I’m kind of biased—that it’s almost like the ultimate, epic romance. And this Sunday we will learn why.

We know Emma did something to Merlin in those missing six weeks. How bad is it?
I can’t tell you because I don’t know. There’s so many different things that happen, it’s very confusing. I can’t say, but you will find out.

Do you ever have trouble keeping track of everything on the show?
Are you kidding me? Of course I do. [Laughs] I just try to concern myself with Merlin and focus on that.